Valve has lost a major court battle regarding reselling Steam games in France. The results of this ruling have essentially invalidated several clauses in the terms of service, including those that assert that you are buying a subscription to a game and not the game itself.
A Quick Primer on the First Sale Doctrine
The First Sale Doctrine is a principle in American law. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to France, but the concept is recognized in some fashion in many countries.
Suppose that I were to buy a book. That book is a copy of someone else’s work, but the book itself is mine. If I wished to sell my copy to someone else, I would totally be within my rights to do so in America (and many other countries). I could not, however, walk over to a Xerox machine, crank out a bunch of copies, and try to sell them for a profit.
Valve (and really most modern software retailers) got around this issue by asserting that they were not selling you a copy of a game; rather, they were selling you a subscription to a game. That has changed after today’s ruling.
The Court Ruling
As reported by Numerama, Valve has lost out on several important points in this court case. The first (and one of the most significant) reiterated a 2012 European Court case which said that no, software companies cannot prevent you from reselling software.
Secondly, the court ruled that your purchases on Steam are indeed buying a copy of the game — it’s more or less no different than if you had picked up a disc from GameStop.
Consequently, Valve is going to have to change the way that they do things in France when it comes to the sale of their products.
Valve has been embroiled in several legal battles around the world; currently, they are also fending off antitrust charges in the EU.
Valve Has 30 Days to Post Notice About Reselling Steam Games
Following this ruling, Valve must comply with two orders from the court. The first is that this ruling must be visible on their website and related applications like the Steam mobile app. Valve has 30 days to comply with this order, after which they will accrue a fine of €3,000 per day up to a period of six months. (If they didn’t do it at all, they could rack up a fine in excess of €540,000/≈$596,000. Additionally, this notice must be visible in the mandated locations for 3 months.
So, does this ruling mean that you’ll be able to start selling used Steam games? I am not a lawyer, but it seems like they’re going to have to implement some kind of system that will let you do that in order to comply with this law. The next several months are sure to be interesting — this court ruling is a major game-changer.
What do you think of the French court ruling on reselling Steam games? Do you think this will change the way digital media is handled? Let us know in the comments below!